THOUSAND OAKS — Twelve minutes. For those in the seats, it’s barely enough to grab a hot dog and drink. For the Rams’ Wade Phillips, apparently it’s enough to change the complexion of a game.
Phillips, the Rams’ veteran defensive coordinator, makes the most of the brief halftime break. The Rams’ ability to tighten up in the third quarter is a major reason why they’re atop the NFC West, and why they have a fighting chance to stifle Philadelphia’s high-powered offense on Sunday at the Coliseum.
The Rams haven’t allowed a point in the third quarter in six consecutive games, and they’ve allowed only one third-quarter touchdown this season (in a September victory over San Francisco). The Rams have outscored opponents in the third quarter by an astounding margin of 92-13.
“I think our guys are just ready to play when they come out,” Phillips said after Thursday’s practice at Cal Lutheran. “You’d like to say, ‘Yeah, it’s coaching,’ but it would be the other coaches, not me.”
What does a typical halftime look like for the Rams’ defensive coaches? Phillips said they meet as a group at the start of the break. Linebackers coach Joe Barry proposes run-defense adjustments for the second half, while defensive backs coaches Aubrey Pleasant and Ejiro Evero talk about pass defense.
Then the coaches take the second-half strategy to players, just a couple minutes before kickoff.
“We discuss it all,” Phillips said. “We say, ‘Hey, this is what we’ve got to get done,’ then they go in there and present it to the team. The adjustments, we do it all together, and those (assistant coaches) communicate well with their own (position) people.”
Much of the Rams’ second-half defensive improvement has come on the ground. Opponents have run for an average of 83.7 yards in the first half, but only 40.0 yards in the second half.
Part of that involves game situations. The Rams have led at halftime in eight of their 12 games, so naturally, teams will throw more in the second half when playing from behind. But, overall, the Rams have allowed an average of only 142.7 yards in the second half, compared to 191.3 in the first half.
Plus, the improvement against the run isn’t all based on the score. Last Sunday, the Rams held only a six-point halftime lead and lost middle linebacker Alec Ogletree to injury. The Cardinals, who ran for 100 yards in the first half, totaled only 18 rushing yards in the second half and got only a field…